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Kathleen Wynne stands by Liberals named in Elections Ontario probe

02/19/2015 09:35 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says that "at this point" there has been no conversation about whether two Liberal members who allegedly acted in "apparent contravention" of election rules ahead of a Sudbury byelection should resign.

The report from Elections Ontario alleges that local Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed Jr. and the premier's deputy chief of staff, Pat Sorbara, appear to have breached an anti-bribery provision in the Elections Act in their discussions with former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier.

The report, which examines allegations that Olivier was made offers in exchange for stepping aside as a candidate, has been referred to the attorney general of Ontario, Elections Ontario chief Greg Essensa said. The ministry has in turn delegated the federal Public Prosecution Service to decide whether to lay charges.

"Elections Ontario has made a decision in terms of taking the information they have now and sending it through to the next part of the process," Wynne said in an interview with CBC's chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge. "We have to let the authorities do their work and that’s what we'll do."

As for whether the people central to the controversy will be asked to step aside while the investigations take place, the premier reiterated that the party would be reviewing the report and said "there’s always an option there of taking different paths."

However, the premier noted that "at this point" there hasn’t been a conversation about possible resignations.

Wynne has repeatedly said that no "specific" offer was made to Olivier.

The Elections Ontario report says "an apparent contravention could be established if a candidate is offered a range of options rather than a specific role in a specific office."

In her interview with CBC News, she said her team was "trying to reach out" to Olivier after it was decided the former federal NDP MP Glenn Thibeault would be running for the Liberals in Sudbury.

"It's difficult when the leader of the party decides to make a decision about a candidate and you’re not the candidate," she said. "Let’s face it, that was a hard moment for the past candidate." 

Sorbara spoke to Olivier after Wynne had already talked to him and told him he wouldn’t be running as the Liberal candidate. "What Pat was doing was making some suggestions about ways he could be involved. That’s the sum total of it," she said in an interview, which will air in full on Mansbridge One on One this weekend.

The premier said she also spoke with Olivier about “things he might want to do” and said she was "very clear there were no commitments being made, there was no explicit offer being made, but there are ways that you can be involved in a party even if you’re not a candidate."

"That was the conversation I had with him, that was the conversation Pat had with him." 

Wynne’s Dec. 11 conversation with the aspiring candidate about her plan for Sudbury was not recorded, Olivier has said under oath. Sorbara’s Dec. 12 conversation was recorded. Olivier released recordings of Sorbara and Lougheed on Jan. 15, the Elections Ontario report says.

Lougheed, chair of Sudbury’s police board, has told local media that he does not have the authority to offer jobs and "at no time" did he promise Olivier a job or appointment if he stepped aside.

Progressive Conservative house leader Steve Clark said the audio recordings of Olivier's conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara — Olivier is quadriplegic and records conversations in lieu of taking notes — are clear.

"We could hear it. Ontarians could hear it," he said in the legislature. "Premier, if you stand with these two you're going to fall with these two. Stand up and call for their resignations." NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Wynne has "lost her way."

"I don't understand why the premier refuses to acknowledge what is clear in black and white and what is frankly unprecedented here in Ontario," she said.

The Elections Ontario report notes that decisions to prosecute a matter and determine guilt or innocence are for the courts.

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